RICE: A Comprehensive Prioritization Framework for PMs

Author headshot for CareerFoundry blog contributor Kinzal Jalan.

In product management, multiple backlog items compete incessantly for priority. This perpetually leaves product managers in a dilemma regarding what to prioritize and defer. 

How can they objectively decide which tasks to allocate time and resources immediately and which can wait?

Enter the RICE Model with its RICE scores—a handy framework to navigate a labyrinthine list of priorities.  

Let’s dive deeper into this model, explore how it works, and understand why product managers should start implementing it in their workflows. We’ll be talking about:

  1. What is the RICE model?
  2. Understanding the RICE Score
  3. Advantages of using the RICE model
  4. Comparing RICE vs. other prioritization frameworks
  5. Exploring drawbacks of RICE
  6. Best practices to use RICE effectively

1. What is the RICE model?

The RICE model is a prioritization framework enabling product or project managers to prioritize roadmap items according to four components: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort, forming the acronym RICE. 

Let’s dig into each of these in detail:


Reach is a quantifiable measure of how many customers will benefit from a particular feature. It helps project managers understand the importance of a feature from the users’ perspective. 

Project managers often add or remove new features based on various feedback, surveys, and internal assessments, resulting in a massive list of roadmap items.  The Reach score estimates the number of users a specific feature affects in a given period.  

Example: Surveys may indicate some users require in-app alerts while performing certain functions. The Reach score establishes that although some may want this feature, others find it intrusive. Hence, this item may be shelved from the roadmap due to a low Reach score. 


Impact is the measurable influence a particular influence has on the users. It helps PMs understand if a specific feature impacts user satisfaction, company revenue, and customer retention. 

Impact is usually scored on a scale of five, ranging from minimal (0.25), low (0.5), medium (1), high (2) and massive (3). If an item on the roadmap list scores high, PMs prioritize it. For example, if feedback surveys reveal a user demand for dark mode, and the subsequent Impact analysis reveals a score of 0.5, the PM may choose to downgrade this item on the priority list. 


Confidence is a metric that helps product managers understand the accuracy of the predicted Reach, Impact, and Effort scores. 

Project managers assign percentage figures to quantify the predictive value of the other three metrics. This helps product managers to know if they are going on the right track while removing or moving up an item on the roadmap.

For example, PMs may assign an overall 80% confidence level for Reach, Impact, and Effort, which suggests a medium probability of all three predictions coming true. The percentages may vary among the three metrics, which results in more deliberations and decisions. 


Effort is the total work, resources, and time required to complete a project. Quantifying the effort helps PMs know how valuable a feature is and if it is worth going forward with it. 

Effort is usually measured in terms of person-hours or person-months. If the Effort score is less, it implies that the project can be completed quickly.

Here’s an example: If a particular item on the roadmap has 78 person-hours and the impact is 2, PMs may consider looking at the overall RICE score before deciding to put it on the priority list. 

Now let’s go a step further and see what the RICE score is. 

2. Understanding the RICE Score

A vital component of the RICE model is the RICE score. Product managers can confidently place roadmap items on a hierarchy based on quantifiable attributes across four parameters using this score.  

RICE score is widely used to get well-rounded answers to questions like: 

  • How many people will benefit from a particular feature
  • What a new feature’s impact will potentially be
  • How much effort will be required to achieve specific goals?  

How to calculate the RICE Score

Once product managers assign numerical values to the different RICE components, the next step is estimating the RICE Score. This score can be obtained as the product of the scores assigned to Reach, Impact, and Confidence factors, dividing this product by the Effort score. 

RICE Score = (Reach*Impact*Confidence)/Effort

A diagram showing how the RICE prioritization score is calculated.

Higher RICE scores indicate projects or features that offer a more significant impact relative to the effort required. Thus, using this score, PMs can prioritize initiatives objectively.

To get started on building one of these yourself, there’s a lot of help out there. Tools such as Miro have handy RICE templates which you can immediately start customizing.

3. Advantages of using the RICE model

Using the RICE model reveals several advantages for product managers. Here are a few:

  • Brings structure: The model brings structure to the items on a roadmap by giving each of them a quantifiable score. This enables PMs to move up or down a priority list more objectively.
  • Introduces clarity: RICE scores help PMs clarify the disparate number of items on a roadmap, enabling them to make better decisions.
  • Aid in avoiding gaps: Clear decision-making results in accurate resource allocation to high-priority items. This limits the occurrence of financial or temporal gaps. 
  • Supports flexibility and scalability: As RICE borrows from the Agile framework, it is flexible and scalable. Depending on the circumstances and project complexities, it can be changed. This helps mitigate various risks and ensure that everything aligns with larger objectives. 

To summarize, the RICE framework, with its RICE score, empowers PMs to make objective and strategic decisions that align efforts with business objectives. But is RICE the best prioritization framework out there? Let’s compare it with other prioritization models to learn about situations where it’s the holy grail and others where better alternatives could exist. 

4. Comparing RICE vs. other prioritization frameworks


Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is a popular prioritization model that considers the economic benefit of items. It is part of the agile framework and is widely used by finance managers and those who allocate budgets to product improvements. 

Unlike RICE, the Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) model takes the value and time required to complete a task. The focus is more on time criticality and risk reduction. Hence, there is a chance of crucial factors such as Reach and Impact being ignored. 


The AARRR framework consists of five metrics: Acquisition of users, Activation of users (proportion of users who experience products positively), Retention, Referral, and Revenue. This prioritization framework focuses on how users perceive items on a roadmap and often misses the items’ technological and financial aspects. 

Like RICE, the AARRR or Pirate Metrics Framework tracks user behavior, identifies metrics that matter and uses only the most relevant data to move further in project management. However, it places a greater emphasis on influencing user behavior rather than considering technical and financial feasibility. In this respect, RICE’s Reach and Impact metrics win over the AARRR framework. 

RICE vs. SMART framework

The SMART framework helps product managers set clear and attainable goals in terms of product management. It considers five metrics: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Although this is a more technology-oriented framework, it often misses the user’s point of view. 

In that sense, RICE is more complex and comprehensive than SMART frameworks. SMART does not consider the reach and impact as RICE does and instead focuses on the timeliness of project completion. 

In conclusion, most project management frameworks consider valuable metrics such as timeliness of completion, user behavior, and prioritization based on the shortest completion time. All these are essential factors, but they miss out on the Reach and Impact metrics central to the RICE framework. This helps PMs prioritize items on a roadmap more comprehensively and realistically than other frameworks. 

5. Exploring drawbacks of RICE

Although RICE is quite a robust framework for prioritizing items on roadmaps, relying on the RICE score can have certain disadvantages:

  • Time-consuming: RICE can be challenging to use for complex roadmaps. Conducting surveys and research to understand Reach, tracking user satisfaction, revenue, and other metrics to understand impact, etc., can all take quite a lot of time.  
  • May be subjective: How RICE is implemented often depends on the PM in charge. While some PMs may prioritize the Reach of the product, others may prioritize the Impact. Although the overall RICE score addresses these biases, there is always room for subjective interpretation. 
  • May be prone to errors: RICE-derived insights may be faulty if data is not accurate.

There are several things you can do to make sure that the RICE prioritization framework is thriving. Let’s explore them now.

6. Best practices to use RICE effectively

As a product manager, you might wonder how to use the RICE framework effectively. Here are some best practices:

  • Identify the items on the roadmap Although this needn’t be stated, many PMs take items on roadmaps for granted and haphazardly make a list. Facts, opinions, and decisions should always be made based on insights derived from customer surveys, user feedback, technical inputs, and other sources.
  • Derive hypotheses Before implementing RICE, it’s best to derive one or more assumptions that clearly state the problems at hand and what needs to be achieved at the end of the roadmap.
  • Identify data sources and methods Much like any research project, RICE requires ascertaining objective data sources to assign RICE scores. This ensures that there is no room for bias or prejudices. Examples include surveys, feedback forms, experiments, user behavior analytics, etc. These can help you estimate reach, impact, confidence, and effort.
  • Quantify RICE based on agreed-upon scores Make sure that scoring RICE is not a single PM’s decision. Instead, make sure to involve multiple stakeholders so that soaring is consistent and objective.
  • Measure and track the RICE framework As with any product management framework and prioritization exercise, your RICE scores can change abruptly due to evolving trends and data. Hence, it is essential to keep track of changes to data and consider them while assigning scores and moving items up and down the list of your roadmap. 

7. Bottom line: Ensure context is king when using the RICE model

As a product manager, it’s crucial to remember there’s no single best way to approach a problem.

It’s best if you consider various factors when developing a product or changing existing features. These include changing user behaviors, evolving user trends, rapidly shifting technologies, and contrasting interests of multiple stakeholders. With all these factors in mind, being open-minded and using the most suitable prioritization framework to move items up and down the roadmap list is essential. 

RICE is one of the most comprehensive frameworks to help you prioritize things on a roadmap. However, it has its drawbacks. It can get complex, needing to be more amenable to changes in data and being challenging to use in situations involving multiple stakeholders. Nevertheless, when used correctly, it can help you prioritize items on a roadmap efficiently to achieve project completion on time. 

If you found this topic interesting and want to learn more about navigating a successful product management career, sign up for CareerFoundry’s free Product Management for Beginners short course.

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